It's time to re-think how we get around, so this year's Biomimicry Student Design Challenge is dedicated to solving problems in our transportation system. The challenge asks students to look to nature to come up with ways to lessen the environmental impact of personal or public transportation, or to make transportation more responsive to user needs.
The theme gives students a lot of room for creativity. Reducing the environmental impact of travel can mean creating fewer greenhouse gasses, lowering energy demands or cutting down on waste and pollution.
Students from around the globe have already signed up, among them teams representing the Ontario College of Art and Design, the Escuela Superior de Diseno de Madrid, Bucknell University, Harvey Mudd College and the PES Institute of Technology in Bangalore.
Students from the University of Calgary have participated in the Biomimicry Design challenge for the past three years. So far this year, the university has five teams registered.
One of the teams is looking at how a cactus could inspire a better semi-truck. The group of six mechanical engineering students originally thought they'd model their design on a peregrine falcon. However, that proved to be a challenge. "There's so much research on birds of prey, that we really struggled to find something innovative," said Jeniece Galeano. "The cactus has proven to be promising."
The team's design will also fulfill course requirements as their capstone project, and they plan to enter the University of Calgary's spring design fair. Although biomimicry is touched on in their program, team member Max Verbeurgt says there aren't currently any courses or programs focused on biomimicry.
The Biomimicry Student Design Challenge aims to promote nature-inspired design solutions, but it also provides tools to students who want to learn more about biomimicry. Registering a team gives students access to a number of resources to help this process and doesn't require a complete design.
The Biomimicry 3.8 Institute has hosted the challenge since 2009. The challenge is open to all students currently enrolled in a degree or certificate program, and interdisciplinary teams are strongly encouraged. Registration is open through February 7, 2014 and final designs are due April 20, 2014.